For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18-19)
Do you know those movie scenes where one good guy is hanging from a cliff and another good guy is reaching down to rescue him? The drama builds as they can’t quite reach other. But then they get closer and closer (and meanwhile all of us are either reaching out our hands in our minds or if we’re not reserved we’re stretching out our hands to help them) until finally, they grab onto each other. Rescued. Brought to safety. Freed from danger.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
This movie picture is close to the picture that is behind this “eager longing.” The image is more purely that of a runner stretching out his head right before the finish line.
The Christian is eagerly waiting for the glory that is to be revealed to us. We are eagerly waiting to know the full picture of what it means to be the baptized, the children of God. We are eagerly waiting the sufferings of this present time to be over and done with.
Part of these present sufferings are things that we did not choose or have little or no control over.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it. (Romans 8:20)
This is the part of the Christian life that describes the death of someone we love. We did not will for them to die. Our will for them is mostly quite the opposite. They did not will to die. They died, though, because all of us have been subjected to futility, are in bondage to corruption, because of the unbelief and rebellion of Adam and Eve.
On the day you eat of it, you will surely die. And so comes cancer, earthquakes and fires, droughts and destructive storms, heart attacks and Alzheimer’s. This wasn’t a choice. Our bodies are not choosing to get sick. The earth isn’t choosing to act chaotic. Creation was subjected to futility – creation is in bondage to corruption (vs. 21), creation is groaning in pain as in childbirth (vs. 22).
This does not describe the part of the Christian life that is admonished by God’s Word to actively choose His will like “be forgiving and watch out for your prideful and hardened heart.
This text is not a text that admonishes us in our Christian living to be less selfish because we are intentionally choosing our own feelings and desires over others.
Instead, this text is a text that recognizes that part of our Christian life that wants to forgive, that doesn’t want to condemn, but has such a hard time doing so despite the desire and despite the mercy and kindness God is showing us.
This text pictures that desire to reach out and fully grasp God’s hand, but not being able yet to reach it.
This text is recognizing that part of the Christian life that wants to sacrificially live for others, bear each others burdens, be merciful as the Father is merciful and give as the Father has given to them but is finding something within their nature that is fighting back against this.
This text is recognizing that part of the Christian life that wants to live with complete faith and hope in God in the midst of the sufferings of this present age but still struggles with despair, anger at God and doubt that God even exists.
To this part of the Christian life, God give us hope. Hope that this struggle and these sufferings both inside and outside of us will end. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
This hope is pictured in a marvelous way:
For the creations was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Romans 8:20-22)
In the midst of birthing pains, a woman expects two things will happen soon. 1.) The pain will end. 2.) They’ll get to hold their baby.
That is the Christian expectation, the Christian hope. Suffering will end, struggle with the sinful nature will end, pain will end and we’ll get to be with Jesus, have a happy reunion with those who have departed in the faith, get to experience the glory that is so great that the suffering now can’t even compare with the glory we’ll experience soon.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
That term “not worth comparing” is a weight term. How many ants have to stand on a scale to equal an elephant? How many feathers have to be set on a scale to equal the weight and volume of all the earths’ oceans? These are incomparable. We can’t imagine.
The glory to be revealed to us is so great that it is incomparable to the sufferings of this present time. Consider a bit about the sufferings of this present time and wonder at that statement.
Our Old Testament reading helps us meditate a little about what this means. In response to his brothers selling him into slavery, desiring his death, Joseph says, You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.
The present evil his brother meant is not with comparing to the blessing Joseph became for all God’s people and all of Egypt.
Just like the present evil Pilate and the soldiers and the religious enemies of Jesus meant is not worth comparing to the good that Jesus death accomplished for them, for you, and for whole world.
They meant to shed Jesus blood for evil, but God meant it for good to show you the Father’s mercy.
They meant every nail for evil, but God meant it for good, nailing your sins to the cross so that Jesus was condemned and judged, and you are forgiven and given to.
Judas meant it for evil when he handed over Jesus unto death for 30 pieces of silver, but God meant it for good as Jesus’ blood bought us back from the wrath of God we rightly deserved.
As we hope for the present sufferings to end and for the future glory to be fully revealed, as presently wait for the struggle to live holy as children of good in our thinking and doing and saying to finally end, our Lord reveals His love for us now through the Gospel.
He reveals His mercy for us now. He preaches to us now that we are redeemed so we belong to Him in life and in death.
We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)
Our Lord gives you the firstfruits of the Spirit now, promising more to come. His Spirit continues to work in you hope for the future, faith for the now, and love that begins to forgive others rather than condemning them, and giving to them even as your Father gives to you now.
Even as we wait for the full rescue, the day when our Lord grasps our hand and pulls us up to complete safety forever, out of all of our groaning, He reaches down today with His Word and His body and blood to give us the firstfruits of the Spirit now. Amen.